Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual news conference on December 17, fielding questions for over three hours in one of the annual set-piece events he uses to send signals about domestic and foreign policy -- and to make a splash with comments that raise eyebrows.
These are some of his more striking remarks:
-- On the downing of a Russian bomber on November 24 by Turkey, which said the Russian warplane entered Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings:
"If somebody in the Turkish leadership decided to lick the Americans in a certain place then I do not know if they did the right thing or not.... And I even do not know whether the Americans needed it.”
WATCH: Putin Says Turkey Licking U.S. 'In A Certain Place'
“We do not rule out that on some level there was an agreement [between Ankara and Washington] that, ‘Well, we here will whack a Russian plane and you will close your eyes to our entrance into, let’s say, Iraqi territory.’ … Maybe there was such a deal. We do not know. In any case, they put everyone in a difficult situation."
WATCH: Putin made what appears to be his clearest admission yet that Russia has sent military forces into Ukraine. Asked essentially the same question at his annual news conference in both 2014 and 2015, he gave a slightly different answer this year -- saying "people" were there carrying out military tasks.
-- On the presence of Russian military forces in eastern Ukraine, where more than 9,000 people have been killed in a conflict between government forces and Russia-backed separatists since April 2014:
“We have never said that there are no people there involved in resolving some certain issues, including those related to the military sphere. But this does not mean that there are regular Russian troops there. Feel the difference."
-- On Donald Trump, the controversial front-runner for the Republican nomination in the U.S. presidential race:
“He is a standout, talented person, without any doubt.”
“He says that he wants to move to a different, tighter level of relations. How can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome it.”
"It is not up to us to assess his qualities, but he is the absolute leader of the presidential race.”
-- On Sepp Blatter, who has been suspended as president of world soccer body FIFA amid a corruption scandal and faces a lifetime ban from the game if certain allegations are proved:
“He has done so much for the world soccer development. His contribution to the humanitarian field is colossal, as he tried to use soccer not just as a sport but as an element of cooperation between states and nations. He’s the one who deserves the Nobel Peace Prize."
-- On Russian Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika, the subject of corruption allegations from opposition leader Aleksei Navalny in a video that has clocked more than 3 million views on YouTube:
“As for Chaika, as for Chaika, as for -- who else? It doesn’t matter who.… There’s a famous joke from Soviet times: A military personnel officer says, ‘We’re not going to promote that guy. Why? He was involved in a fur coat [theft].’ And then it turns out his wife’s fur coat was stolen at the theater five years ago.… But just in case, we won’t promote him -- it’s like that.”
-- On Turkomans, Syrians of Turkish descent whose villages Turkey has accused Russia of bombing in northern Syria. Turkomans are not directly related to the Turkmen people of Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic far to the northeast of Syria.
“You understand, I’ve never even heard of Turkomans. I know that Turkmen -- our own Turkmen -- live in Turkmenistan, but here it’s impossible to understand….Nobody told us anything.”
-- On his daughters Maria, 30, and Katerina, 29. Reuters reported last month that Katerina was working in a senior post at Moscow State University, and that companies and people close to the Kremlin were supporting a project she oversees there. Media have reported that Maria lived in the Netherlands with her Dutch husband before the July 2014 downing of an airliner over Ukraine in which 298 people, most of them Dutch, were killed.
“They live in Russia.... They have never been educated anywhere except Russia. I am proud of them, they continue to study and are working. My daughters speak three European languages fluently.... They do not just speak them, but use them in their work. They are taking the first steps in their careers, but are making good progress. They are not involved in business or politics."
-- On the appointment of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region in May.
“This is a spit in the face of the Ukrainian people."
-- On Russian bans prohibiting the adoption of Russian children by Americans and some other foreigners, including those from countries that allow same-sex marriage:
-- On Russia's military operation in Syria, where its warplanes began a campaign of air strikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad's forces on September 30:
"It does not impose additional pressure on the budget. We just used a portion of the finances we had allocated for training and military maneuvers to conduct our Military-Space Forces' operations in Syria. It's hard to imagine any better training...We can train for quite a long time there."
-- On the investigation into the killing of Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician and Putin critic who was shot dead near the Kremlin on February 27, 2015:
"As to the crime against Boris Nemtsov, I knew him personally. And we were not always on bad terms -- actually. I myself never ruined my relations with him. He chose that way of political fighting, of personal attacks...but I got used to that. I do not think that a person must be killed. I will never accept this. I believe that this crime must be fully investigated and [the culprits] punished."